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The Richard G. Folsom Library ("Folsom Library") is a research library constructed in the Brutalist style located on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. It is named after Richard Gilman Folsom,
the President of the Institute from 1958–1971. The Folsom Library
offers a variety of services to students and patrons of the library. In
addition to loans, these services include class reserves, general
writing and presentation assistance through the Center for Communication
Practices, cultural and educational events, inter-library loans through
ConnectNY, individual and group room reservations, computer labs, and wireless internet.
The library has integrated many electronic resources into its
offering, such as research databases and digital music libraries. The
library is also one of 1250 federal depository libraries in the United States, and maintains an up to date archive of thousands of federal documents open to the public.
The One Room Collection
The origins of the modern Folsom Library can be traced to the founding of the school in 1824. At that time, the Rensselaer School occupied The Old Bank Place in Troy, and it is likely that the original library was only a single room or small part of a room. The library consisted of a sparse collection of scientific works and was created in line with the Constitution and Laws of the Rensselaer School, which stated that the school would have "a very ample scientific library to which members of the institution will have free access". The first librarian for the library came from the first graduating class, and was a student named Albert Danker. For a short period of time, the ownership of the library belonged to Amos Eaton, a local scientist and educator, when he obtained rights to the Old Bank Place after the Rensselaer School changed its name to the Rensselaer Institute and moved to Van Der Heyden Mansion, a nearby location. The school moved back to the Old Bank Place in the same year, and upon Eaton's death in 1842, gained ownership of the collection again. The library stayed under the ownership of Rensselaer when the institute was forced to move (due to estate ownership complications) to the Infant School, a small brick building in downtown Troy.
The Great Fire
In 1862, sparks from a passing locomotive on the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad bridge caused a massive fire that wiped out a large portion of Troy and the majority of Rensselaer's property. Relocation and reconstruction began on 8th Street in Troy, and in 1864, the library of 396 volumes moved into the Main Building, where it would stay for another 30 years. During that time, an 80 page catalog of the library's collection entitled "Catalogue of the Library of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y." was published, and it listed over 1000 titles spanning various technical areas. From 1893 to 1927, the library moved several times, finding home in the Alumni House on 2nd Street and later moving to the Pittsburgh Building and Amos Eaton Hall.
Despite its growing collection, in its early years, the library was rarely used by students. During the years of 1912 and 1913, when the library was located in the Pittsburgh Building, there was considerably low utilization of the collection, with many students only visiting the building in their Senior year to prepare for their graduation theses. This was also partly due to the limited scope of the collection, which by Rensselaer's technical nature, consisted primarily of technical journals and other periodicals.
Student use increased during the period of 1912 to 1927 as the curriculum of the institute expanded and more volumes were added to the collection to supplement professors' instruction. It was also during this period of time that the library moved from the Pittsburgh Building to the more spacious Amos Eaton building. The Amos Eaton building offered sufficient space for a little over 30 years, until a growing number of publications written after World War II forced the collection to move again to the recently purchased St. Joseph Convent chapel.
A Dedicated Library
The library's continued growth forced the institute to take into consideration creating a dedicated building for holding its collection. Up until 1950, the collection had been largely technical, but expansion of the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as increased research created an intense demand on the library. The library had constantly been moved from building to building up until this point, never having had an actual home dedicated strictly for library usage. To evaluate the possibility of a new location, a Library Advisory Committee was formed. The committee first published their discovery of numerous deficiencies in the current library in June 1962 in a report called "Future of the RPI Library Collection". The New York State Education Department also noted deficiencies of the library during their evaluation of the graduate program.
The Greene Report
On June 20, 1967, the Library Advisory Committee published a report known as the "Greene Report", which detailed the purpose and requirements of a new library for the institute as well as previous research done about the library's efficacy. The report stated that "The Library is the information center of the university, providing resources to the scholars who are making, doing, and thinking things". It went on to detail the primary functions of the library to be education and research, and emphasized that the library must contain a strong collection in periodical literature, go beyond books (towards audio visual collections), strengthen peripheral material availability, and centralize all of the institutes's collections. The report also listed a number of other improvements, including:
Renovation of physical space
Conversion from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress System
The hiring of more professional staff
Improved services for library users
300% increase in funding for acquisitions
Creation of a program for binding of periodicals
Creation of a program for development of computer control and automation of the collection
A 50,000 monograph minimum
Improvements in the graduate level collection
A 100,000 minimum of Language and Literature books
An acquisition rate of at least 10,000 per year
At the time, it was also clear that Rensselaer was lacking in its collection when compared to its peers. In 1967, James E. Skipper, a researcher for the Association of Research Libraries, compiled a table illustrating the collections of various universities in New York.
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